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Fire History Disturbance Study 
of the Kenai Peninsula Mountainous 
Portion of the Chugach National Forest 


Written by 


Michele Potkin 
December 5, 1997 



Abstract 

Forests in the vicinity of the Kenai Peninsula portion of the Chugach National Forest are 
of special ecological interest because of their transitional nature between coastal and 
interior forest types. The Continental Interior boreal forest and Maritime Pacific coast 
ecological regions merge on the Forest. Fire has historically been present in this century 
in the Kenai Mountains but whether fire is the important disturbance process creating 
structural and landscape diversity within this ecosystem is unknown. This report 
describes three distinct periods of fire frequency - prehistoric (pre 1740), settlement 
(1741-1913), and post-settlement (1914-1997). Fire reports on the Forest from 1914- 
1997 were summarized and attributed into a CIS data base documenting fire occurrences 
for the post-settlement period. A historic fire map was generated for known disturbance 
burn polygons. A historic land classification document containing maps and 
photographs, reveals widespread fire disturbances at the turn of the century, settlement 
period. The present study examined the fire history disturbances of three isolated mature 
forest areas to reconstruct the age distributions of living trees. Twenty-four historic 
burns were also examined, future work will reconstruct the age distributions of living 
trees sampled. Radiocarbon dates of soil charcoal were collected under mature forest 
stands to document pre-historic fire occurrences. Within the historic burns, remnants of 
older stumps and isolated residual trees reveal mature forests existed prior to disturbance. 
Needleleaf forests adjacent to these historic burns have ages greater then 200 ybp. The 
ages of living Lutz spruce and mountain hemlock within the mature forests sampled are 
greater then 200 ybp, subsurface soil charcoal is greater then 500 ybp. Although abiotic 
disturbances such as wind, snow avalanche, landslides, glacial recession, and flooding 
have been recognized for the important ways in which they influence the pattern of 
vegetation and tree recruitment on the Forest, the role of fire is now recognized as an 
important disturbance process over many millennia in this transitional climate. The 
historical records of fires and tree ages, together with the present mature forests and 
beetle kill fuel loads, suggest that the next interval of stand-regenerating fires is near. 

Introduction 

Abiotic disturbances such as wind, snow avalanches, landslide, glacial recession and 
flooding have, for some time, been recognized for the important way in which they 
influence the pattern of vegetation that develops on the Kenai Peninsula portion of the 
Chugach National Forest. Fire has historically been present in this century in the Kenai 
Mountains but whether fire is the important disturbance process creating structural and 
landscape diversity within this ecosystem is unknown. Forests on the Peninsula had not 
received logging activity prior to 1740. Uncut forests provide a rare opportunity to 
discern the natural dynamics of vegetation in a expanding landscape becoming dominated 
by both human and insect disturbances. The Forest contains a diverse mosaic of 
primarily hemlock-dominated stands. Among the hemlocks grow numerous white spruce 
and Sitka spruce. White spruce is largely dependent on fire to provide the open mineral 
seedbed necessary for its regeneration. Its presence implies disturbance by fire. 
Observations of potential fire regimes are illustrated by the small islands of fire-prone 
and fire-dependent white spruce vegetation that exists within the sea of mountain 


1 



hemlock and Sitka spruce forest, occupying habitat conditions that are unfavorable for 
fire on cool and wet topographic positions of the Forest. 


There are limitations with the accuracy of forest history reconstructions due to lack of 
living trees having survived recent spruce bark beetle infestations. Isolated areas still 
remain throughout the forest where the stand ages still span the time of fire history. This 
report describes three distinct periods of fire frequency on the Forest: pre-historic, 
settlement, and post-settlement. In addition, a study examined the fire history 
disturbances throughout the Forest in three isolated mature forest areas and twenty-four 
old historic fire burns reconstructing the age distributions of living trees. Evidence of 
fire was recorded by radiocarbon dating soil charcoal and documenting burn polygons 
with residual trees and charred stumps. The results illustrate a long interval fire cycle 
that could have controlled the recruitment and mortality of most spruce and probably 
most hemlock trees in this forest over the past 500-3,000 yrs. In addition to the fire 
history information provided in the text, information on prescribed fire management is 
included in Appendix A. 


Study area 


Environment 

Located in south-central Alaska, the 8,268 square miles Kenai Peninsula lies between 
Cook Inlet to the north and west and Prince William Sound to the south and east. 
Geographically, the Peninsula is commonly divided into two major subsections. To the 
west are the Western Kenai lowlands. The characteristic rolling topography of the 
lowlands is created by Pleistocene glacial deposits left by advances of the Harding Ice 
Field. Forest succession on the lowlands often leads to bogs and open stands of black 
spruce characteristic of the boreal forest. On dryer sites, succession results in stands of 
white spruce and paper birch. The Kenai Mountains, rising to an elevation of over 6,560 
feet, form a second geographic unit over the eastern half of the peninsula. The Forest is 
divided by the boundary of the Eastern Kenai Mountains subsection and the Western 
Kenai Mountains subsection (Davidson, 1996). Steep sided U-shaped valleys, deep 
outwash deposits and hummocky high and low valley bottoms left by receding valley 
glaciers are remnant landforms characterizing the Eorest. The rugged terrain (wide 
variety of slope, aspect, and elevation), becoming drier towards the interior rainshadow 
portions of the mountains (20-80” of precipitation, see Cooper Landing climate diagram 
Eig. 1), and proximity to wet coastal weather (200 to 400 inches of total precipitation per 
year, of which 59 to 157 inches is snowfall) result in a variety of unique vegetation 
patterns. Three-fourths of the land area is nonforested and is characteristic of the Alpine 
Tundra Biome (Rowe, 1972; Brock and Nowacki, 1993). Upland tundra, subalpine and 
coastal forest types prevail (Viereck et al. 1992). 

Eigure 1. Climatic diagram following Walter (1985). Key: Upper curve is mean monthly 
temperature, lower curve is mean monthly precipitation where 20mm precip. = 10 deg. C. 
Lower horizontal bars represent frost periods: hatched bar is mean latest/earliest frost 
date, clear bars indicate absolute latest/earliest dates. A=Station name, b=elevation. 


2 



c=mean annual temperature, d=mean annual preciplk,mm,=years of data, f=highest 
temperature recorded, g=lowest temperature recorded 


Cooper Lake Project 
3.5 C 
[ 10 - 10 ] 


(41 m) 

820 mm 

mm 



200 

100 

80 

60 

40 

20 


Vegetation 

Wildfire is an important environmental factor in the Alaska taiga, and present-day 
vegetation mosaics reflect past fire history (Viereck, 1973). The northern boreal forest is 
primarily open, slow-growing spruce interspersed with occasional dense well-developed 
forest stands and treeless bogs. This type of regional vegetation or “taiga” is 
differentiated from the closed, fast-growing forests of the more southerly region of the 
boreal forest zone. Contrary to the taiga, the Kenai Peninsula is a transitional zone 
between boreal forest merging with the coastal rainforest. Sitka spruce thrives in the near 
coastal zone where climatic conditions limit the frequency and intensity of naturally 
occurring fires (Agee, 1994). Mountain hemlock is considered to occur as a subalpine 
forest which usually burns infrequently, however fire is the primary large-scale 
disturbance agent in these forests (Agee, 1989). White spruce is adapted to a wide range 
of edaphic and climatic conditions of the Northern Coniferous Forest and has a 
transcontinental range across Alaska where it overlaps with Sitka spruce near sea level 
(Burns and Honkala, 1990). Fire has played an integral role in the evolution and 
maintenance of the flora and fauna of northern circumpolar forest habitats. Throughout 
the range of white spruce, fire has been an important, sometimes dominant factor in 
forest dynamics. White spruce is probably more susceptible to destruction by fire than 
any other tree in Alaska (Lutz, 1953). 


3 


Vegetation history 

The early Holocene was characterized by warm temperatures and low precipitation. The 
earliest pollen assemblages on the Kenai Peninsula - Hidden Lake indicate a mesic herb- 
willow tundra was replaced by birch shrub tundra around 13,400 ybp (Ager, 1983; 
Appendix B). Between 11,000 and 8000 ybp poplar-willow scrub vegetation occupied 
areas of central Kenai Peninsula, the northern Chugach Mountains, and northern Cook 
Inlet (Appendix C). Alder appearance in this region between 9000 and 8000 ybp, 
apparently arriving first on the coast and spreading rapidly to the north and west might 
reflect the higher precipitation of the region (Appendix D & E). White spruce appeared 
at about 8000 ybp on the Kenai Peninsula and the Anchorage area. The spruce migration 
began southward from interior Alaska into the Copper River Valley and Cook Inlet area. 
Sitka spruce, mountain hemlock and western hemlock did not appear in south-central 
Alaska until about 3000-4000 ybp (Peteet, 1991; Appendix F). The establishment of 
stands of coastal conifers was the result of a migration northwestward along the coast of 
the Gulf of Alaska that took place as storm tracts strengthened during the late Holocene 
(Huesser, 1983). 

Soils 

Soil development in the subarctic is a function of climate and topography, whereas parent 
material, time and organisms are of lesser importance. Short time span since glaciation 
combined with cold temperatures restricts chemical weathering. The present soil 
developed within the last 5000-10,000 ybp on steep slopes, U-shaped valleys, and glacial 
outwash deposits. Throughout the forest and meadow soils a 1/2 to 6 inch layer of very 
fine volcanic ash material occurred on top of glacial till (Fig. 2, Fig 3). These tephra 
deposits (3,500 to 3,700 ybp) are an upper Holocene marker in horizons of southcentral 
Alaska (Riehle, 1990). Charcoal evidence in all soil profiles examined in this study 
occurred above this tephra deposit. Leaching of weathered bases from glacial tills 
favours trees like Spruce. Soil acidification processes reflect leached podzol’s which 
characterize the soil development of the area. 

Very little research has been carried out on the effects of fire on soils and watersheds in 
Alaska (Dryness, 1978; Van Cleve & Viereck, 1983; Dryness et al. 1989), limited results 
make it difficult to describe soil effects. It is recognized that conditions after burning 
represent a mosaic and observations and sampling are stratified by classes. Forest floor 
conditions after fire in black spruce are classified into five-class system: 1) unburned, 2) 
scorched, 3) lightly burned, 4) moderately burned, and 5) heavily burned. Fire is a rapid 
decomposer. 

In many areas of the world, including the subarctic, organic materials accumulate more 
rapidly than they are broken down by decomposition. Rates of microbial decomposition 
are ordinarily speeded up after a fire, largely because of increased temperatures. In these 
areas fire often plays the role of a rapid decomposer by releasing large quantities of 
readily available plant nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and 
magnesium. Fire affected forest floor chemistry in different ways in four forest types 
studied (Dryness et al., 1989). Despite the almost uniform increases in forest floor ph. 


4 



Fig. 2 Meadow soil 



Fig. 3 Forest soil 



5 




amounts of exchangeable K, Ca, and Mg did not markedly increase in the forest floor 
with burning, except for heavily burned areas in white spruce and black spruce plots. 
There was an overall decline in C and N content of the forest floor with increasing burn 
severity. 

Probably the most far-reaching effects of fire on soil in subarctic forests are caused, in 
the final analysis, by changes in soil temperature. Burning causes higher soil 
temperatures by consuming a portion of the insulating surface organic layer and 
blackening the surface. Most studies indicate surface soils, which have been recently 
burned, warm up more quickly at the beginning of the growing season and are 
substantially warmer than unburned soils. Although all the consequences of this 
temperature differential still are not known, we do know it stimulates germination and 
growth of some plants, accelerates rates of decomposition and mineralization, and results 
in a retreat of the surface of the permafrost table. 

Methods 


Site selection 

With the aid of Forest Service personnel, disturbance event polygons that appeared to 
contain Lutz spruce fPicea x lutzul dominated forest affected by the same disturbance 
event were located on 1:15,840 aerial photographs. Foot travel to and within these 
polygons for field observations and reconnaissance on the forest composition were made 
prior to sampling transect points. There were limitations with the accuracy of forest 
history reconstructions on these sites due to lack of living trees having survived recent 
spruce bark beetle infestations. Isolated areas still remain throughout the forest where the 
living trees stand ages could still span the time of disturbance history. 

After further evaluation using timber cover type maps and discussions with foresters 
assessing timber salvage units, three (3) primary areas were chosen the first field season 
for sampling in forest stands with tree ages exceeding 200 years. The forest types are a 
mixture of hybrid Lutz spruce and mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) . Random 
locations were subjectively chosen within each polygon after assessing the homogeneity 
of the site and forest type. A one hundred and fifty (150) meter transect point was 
located, transect width was variable (between 3 and 6 m wide) in order to sample 
approximately 100 trees independent of stand density. At each point, a random transect 
direction was chosen. 

During the second field season an old forest land classification revealed large burns pre- 
1924 throughout the Forest. After digitizing these polygons, and locating them on aerial 
photographs, these old historic fire burns sites were visited in the field. Transects were 
positioned on the edge of twenty four (24) burns. A fifty (50) meter transect point was 
located, transect width was variable (between 3 to 5 m wide) in order to sample 
approximately 30 trees independent of stand density. Historic photograph points were 
relocated in two localities to document changes over time. 


6 



Aspect, slope and elevation were measured by compass, clinometer, and altimeter, 
respectively. Diameter at breast height, core height, diameter at core height, total tree 
height, and basal area by species were recorded for each tree in the plot. Fuel’s data was 
sampled along the first 20 meters. A soil pit was dug in the periphery to characterize the 
site and look for evidence of soil charcoal. Soil charcoal was collected during the first 
field season. Samples were sieved and processed at Beta Analytic for radiocarbon 
determinations using AMS techniques. 

Ages of Living Trees 

All living trees were cored as close to the root crown as practical in all plots. In most 
instances core height averaged one foot above the soil surface. Increment cores were 
mounted on boards, sanded and counted under a binocular microscope. Total tree age on 
a sample was determined by adding to the age estimates of core height above germination 
level taken from saplings on the site. Further correction factors need to be determined for 
the region. For missed piths, I estimated each cores continuous rings using circle 
templates of different radii. I counted the number of rings across this same distance in 
the innermost intact wood. This number of rings then was added to the count of actual 
rings. By experimenting with cores that actually contained piths, I found that this method 
consistently underestimated the number of rings. Calculated errors in age estimates still 
need to be determined. Future work needs to cite Bevington (1969), who calculated the 
combined covariances in growth-rate estimates, ages of missed piths, and covariance 
between growth rates and tree ages at various heights. 

Historic Fire Disturbance Map 

The forest fire records from 1914-1997 were attributed into a CIS data base. Fire 
polygons were mapped from individual fire reports onto 1:63,000 USGS topo quads. 

Fire locations within polygons were also mapped as point occurrences. The old historic 
land classification atlas including fire burn polygons were additionally digitized. Moose 
burn polygons were mapped onto to 1:15,840 aerial photographs and digitized into CIS 
data layer. All layers were combined into a historic fire disturbance map. The timber 
cover types were compared to assess relationships between historic burns and mixed 
broadleaf forest types. 


Results 


Three isolated mature forest areas and 24 old historic fire burns were sampled during two 
field seasons 1995-1996 (Table 1, Appendix G). Tree stand age structures were 
reconstructed by their age distributions of living trees for the three mature forests (Fig. 

4). The Hunter site is a productive forest with devil’s club and wood fern understory 
(Fig. 5, Fig 6). There are clumps of sapling regeneration, tree recruitment of both spruce 
and hemlock seedlings were common on nurse logs that have fallen and rotted and 


7 



Table 1 


Study Sites 

1995 

Vegetation type 

Elev. 

Slope Aspect 

Charcoal evid. 


Age 

Recruitment 

Palmer Creek 

Tsumer-Picsit/Menfer-Moss 

1300 

20 

270 

no charcoal 


uneven 

mostly hemlock 

North Kenai Lake 

Piclut/Menfer-Moss 

750 

10 

160 

1540 +!- 40 BP 

stand replacing 

even 

spruce & hemlock 

Hunter 

Tsumer-Piclut/Echhor-Drydil 

1100 

30 

150 

1290 +!- 40 BP 


uneven 

spruce & hemlock 

1996 

Bear Creek site 1 

Betken-Picsit/Echhor-Calcan 

800 

25 

234 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

even 

spruce & hemlock 

Bear Creek site 2 

Betken-Picsit/Echhor-Drydil 

1000 

20 

180 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

even 

spruce & hemlock 

Lower Palmer Creek 

Betken-Picsit-Tsumer/Moss 

700 

10 

290 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

uneven 

sparse spruce 

East Moose Creek 

Picgla/Betnan-Empnig 

1900 

5 

312 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

uneven 

sparse spruce 

Hungry Creek 

Picgla/Betnan-Empnig 

1950 

15 

130 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

uneven 

spruce & hemlock 

Russian River Ferry 

Picgla-Poptre/Empnig-Vacvit 

700 

0 

180 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

even 

spruce 

West Slaughter Creek 

Picmar-Picgla/Betnan-Empnig 

1250 

2 

290 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

uneven 

spruce 

West Juneau Lake 

Picgla/Linbor 

1600 

9 

300 

charred stumps 

mixed severity 

even 

spruce & hemlock 

East Juneau Lake 

Picgla/Betnan-Empnig 

1400 

3 

100 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

even 

spruce & hemlock 

West Swan Lake 

Tsumer-Picgla/Betnan-Empni 

1700 

10 

280 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

uneven 

spruce & hemlock 

Aspen Flat site 1 

Picgla-Poptre/Betnan 

700 

24 

250 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

even 

spruce 

Aspen Flat site 2 

Picgla/Betnan-Arcuvi 

600 

1 

280 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

even 

spruce 

Tenderfoot Hillslope 

Tsumer/Menfer 

1500 

40 

290 

no charcoal 

no fire evidence 

uneven 

hemlock 

Crescent Lake Trail 

Tsumer/Menfer 

1100 

5 

160 

charred stumps 

mixed severity 

uneven 

hemlock 

Manitoba East 

Tsumer/Moss 

1800 

15 

280 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

uneven 

none 

Manitoba West 

Tsumer/Moss 

1400 

20 

80 

no charcoal 

no fire evidence 

uneven 

hemlock 

East White Creek 

Betken-Picgla/Menfer-Empnig 

1280 

25 

280 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

even 

birch, spruce, hemlock 

Pass Creek 

Tsumer/Menfer 

1250 

9 

310 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

uneven 

hemlock 

Rimrock Creek 

Tsumer-Piclut-Betken/Empnig 

650 

25 

160 

charred stumps 

mixed severity 

uneven 

hemlock 

Upper Palmer Creek 

Tsumer-Piclut-Betken/Menfer 

1200 

18 

270 

charred stumps 

mixed severity 

uneven 

hemlock 

Upper Trail Lake 

Betken-Piclut 

550 

57 

130 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

even 

birch & hemlock 

West Shore Kenai Lk 

Betken-Piclut 

1280 

27 

176 

charred stumps 

stand replacing 

even 

birch, spruce, hemlock 

Henry Creek 

Betken-Piclut 

850 

10 

100 

charred stumps 

mixed severity 

even 

birch, spruce, hemlock 

Falls Creek 

Betken-Piclut 

600 

37 

76 

charred stumps 

mixed severity 

even 

birch, spruce, hemlock 


8 



N«mlofk il Pabntr IH« 


Fig. 4 



9 


Fig. 5 



Fig. 6 



10 




provide an excellent micro site for new regeneration. Windthrow is somewhat scattered, 
these gap disturbances influence tree recruitment. Soil subsurface charcoal was found 
under the Hunter site dating 1270 +/- 40 BP (Appendix H). The disturbance polygon is 
included in a larger silviculture treatment, the stand polygon size is 200 acres (Unit 63, L. 
Ang, 1995). The basal area for spruce is 160-240, avg. 180. The basal area for mountain 
hemlock is 240-360, avg. 280. The size of the spruce is 20” dbh live, range 14-40. The 
size of the mountain hemlock is 16” dbh live, range 6-24. The age/vigor of both spruce is 
about 240 yrs., mountain hemlock is greater then 200 years. Growth of spruce is .8 to .20 
inch per decade, avg. 15. Growth of mountain hemlock is .6 inch per decade, with 
greater then 50% heart rot. 


The Palmer Greek site is an older growth mountain hemlock and Sitka spruce forest with 
an uneven age structure (Fig. 7, Fig 8). Tree recruitment was primarily hemlock 
seedlings. Very little gap disturbances were noted on the site. No soil charcoal was 
found within the soil profile. The disturbance polygon is included in a silviculture 
treatment, the stand polygon size is 145 acres (Unit 1, Neff-Shea and Simonson, 1995). 
The basal area for spruce is 120 live avg., range 0 to 240, 70 dead avg. The basal area for 
hemlock is 150 avg., range 10-26. The size of spruce is 20” dbh live and dead, range 10- 
26. The size for hemlock is 20” avg, range 10-24. The age/vigor of both species is 
greater then 200 years. Growth of both species is greater than .3 inch per decade. The 
site index is 70. 


The North Shore Kenai Lake site is the third mature forests sampled (Fig. 9, Fig. 10). An 
even-aged stand, dominated by Lutz spruce contains both surface and subsurface soil 
charcoal. The subsurface soil charcoal date is 1530 +/- 40 BP (Appendix I), the surface 
charcoal was not dated due to misunderstanding of contamination from fungus and 
bacteria. Tree recruitment is primarily saplings of Lutz spruce with patches of mountain 
hemlock. The wind throw and blowdown is building creating widespread gap 
disturbances (Fig. 11). The soil profiles sampled throughout these slopes have a strong 
signature of charcoal (Fig. 12). The disturbance polygon is included in a larger 
silvicultural prescription treatment, the stand polygon is 500 acres (Unit 19, L. Ang, 
1995). Most of the stand is spruce with very little hemlock along the top edge. The basal 
area for spruce is 300 avg., range 200-380. The basal area for mountain hemlock is 260 
avg., range 200-380. The size of spruce is 16” dbh avg., range 10-20. The size for 
hemlock is avg. 8, range 5-12. The age/vigor of spruce and hemlock is 200+ yrs. 

Growth for spruce is .4 to .16 inch per decade. Growth for mountain hemlock is .4 inches 
per decade. 


Further reconnaissance of fire disturbances throughout the forest during the 1995 first 
field season revealed three additional prehistoric fire events. The Black Mountain site 
(proposed RNA) contains a mature mountain hemlock forest with rusty menziesia 
understory (Fig. 13, Fig. 14). The subsurface soil charcoal date is 3010 +/- 40 BP 
(Appendix J). The Unit 5G - Schillter Greek site. North Shore Kenai Lake, contains 


11 



Fig. 7 



Fig. 8 



12 




Fig. 9 



13 



Fig. 11 



Fig. 12 



14 





Fig. 13 



Fig. 14 



15 




another older growth mountain hemlock forest with rusty menziesia understory (Fig. 15, 
Fig. 16). The subsurface soil charcoal date is 2470 +/- 50 BP (Appendix K). The Unit 
13D - North Shore Kenai Lake contains another older growth mountain hemlock forest 
with rusty menziesia understory (Fig. 17, Fig. 18). The subsurface soil charcoal date is 
570 +/- 60 BP (Appendix L). 


Within the historic burns remnants of older stumps (Fig. 19, Fig. 20) and isolated residual 
trees reveal mature forests existed prior to settlement disturbance (Fig. 21, Fig 22). 
Limited dead wood exists to extend the time span of the fire history that we can 
reconstruct from earlier successional stages of tree recruitment on a site. Historical 
written accounts and photographs of fire occurrences were collected. Two locations were 
visited with historical photographs in Aspen Flats and Juneau Lake vicinities. 
Photographs were retaken to document changes over time (Fig. 23, Fig. 24, Fig. 25, Fig. 
26). Fire reports were attributed from 1914-1997 and a GIS historic map was generated 
documenting known polygon and point references of fire in this century. 


Discussion 


Stand age structure, radiocarbon soil charcoal dates and evidence of fire charred stumps 
were used to construct a fire history for the mountain hemlock/Lutz spruce vegetation 
type of the Kenai Peninsula’s mountainous portion of the Chugach National Forest. 
Records to construct a much more detailed picture of the fire history on living trees is 
limited to the past 300 years because older mountain hemlock and Lutz spruce trees are 
rare on the Forest. Age-class analysis of three mature habitat types on the forest reveal 
uneven and even age structures, extended and suppressed recruitment and gap-phase 
regeneration. Charcoal was found subsurface in the soil profile below the present litter 
and duff on two of the three sites. Radiocarbon dates were 1540 +/- 40 ybp and 1270 +/- 
40 ybp. Two sites are located in the interior portions of the forest, whereas the third site 
occurs closer to the coastal climate. Three distinct periods of fire frequency were 
established; prehistoric (pre 1740), settlement (1741-1913), and post-settlement (1914- 
1997). The influx of ignition sources increased during the settlement period and greatly 
decreased during post-settlement. The difference was attributed to the influx of mining 
and railroad activity during settlement era which created the vegetative mosaic now 
observed throughout the Forest. 

Prehistoric period 

The fires over the last 150 years of settlement contributed to the present forest mosaic. 
These fire disturbances have boosted the wide range of diversity in composition of forest 
types on the Chugach portion of the Kenai Peninsula. Prior to the settlement period of 
the late 1800’s, the majority of the coniferous forests were recorded (Langille, 1904; 
Holbrook, 1924) to be in late successional stages. The size of the old, charred stumps 


16 



Fig. 15 



Fig. 16 



17 



Fig. 17 



Fig. 18 



18 




Fig. 19 





Fig. 20 


19 


Fig. 21 



20 




Fig. 23 



Fig. 24 



21 



Fig. 25 



Fig. 26 



22 


found within the fire disturbance areas are approximately the same size as today’s (Fig. 
27). Forest and nonforest acreages on the Forest reflect the compositional changes of 
needleleaf forests bordering the burned areas, which are more than 200 years old (Fig. 

28, fire disturbances (Table 2). 

Of the 270,000 thousand acres of forest lands on the Chugach portion of the Kenai 
Peninsula, 215,000 thousand acres are needleleaf forest and 55,000 thousand acres are 
mixed or broadleaf forest types. The vast majority of trees are dominated by mountain 
hemlock, secondarily by white and Sitka spruce needleleaf forests, and thirdly by birch 
and cottonwood deciduous forests. The large number of acres burned on the Forest 
during settlement (30,000 acres, Holbrook, 1924) included conversion of some mature 
spruce stands to grass, brush, and broadleaf tree vegetation types. Numerous burned 
areas were likely reburned. The evidence of these fires can be seen in the present birch 
and aspen forest mosaics comprising 35,000 acres of mixed or broadleaf forest types. 

The abundance of grassland, alder and brush non-forest types also reflect fire 
disturbances. However, the actual burned acres are difficult to determine because 
avalanche and landslide also contribute to widescale disturbances of these non-forest 
community types. 

The evidence for pre-historic fire events on the forest from radiocarbon dates on soil 
charcoal range from 4500 ybp (Reiger, 1995) to 570 ybp. Historical evidence supporting 
a climax forest is cited by the following authors Langille (1904) and Holbrook (1924) 
concluded from evidence indicated by old logs and decayed stumps of large size, that a 
prehistoric forest of greater proportions once existed, probably destroyed by fire before 
the Russian occupancy of the region, each succeeding generation diminishing in size and 
quantity until they are reduced to their present impoverished state. Although large 
historic fires were recorded on the Forest during the settlement period, we do not now 
how this compares with the number and size of fires during prehistoric fire history. 

This present study confirms with Tande’s (Rothe, et al. 1983) data suggesting that the 
Anchorage area and the Kenai Mountains have low incidences of natural fire and long 
periods of time between fires. Young stands of trees in the forests of the Kenai 
Mountains are rare as in Anchorage vicinity. The age of forest stands are between 190- 
350 and 45- 100 years old on the Kenai and between for 195-230 and 45-80 in 
Anchorage. Due to the lack of fire scar evidence, natural fires on the Forest were rarely 
detected in the age structure of the Forests. Charred charcoal was commonly found in 
soil profiles below the organic mat (Fig. 29, Fig. 30). The study site on the north shore of 
Kenai Lake had an even age-class spruce forest with prolific charcoal on the soil surface 
and beneath fallen root mats (Fig. 31, Fig. 32). 

Settlement history 


Beginning in the late 19th century and continuing through the early 20th century, this 
period shows high fire frequencies on the Kenai Peninsula. The forests of the Kenai 
Peninsula represent a nearly natural situation. Before settlement there was virtually no 


23 



Fig. 27 



Fig. 28 



24 




Table 2 


Forest/Nonforest Acreages for the Chugach portion of the Kenai Peninsula: 


Nonforest type Acres 

Alpine 277,133 

Rock 201,305 

Ice/Snowfields 157,906 

Alder 141,053 

Brush 67,751 

Grassland 54,879 

Water 36,154 

Willow 9,681 

Riverfill 4,036 

Snowslide 3,793 

Muskeg 2,406 

Urban 1,718 

Borrow pit 1^ 

Total Nonforest type 958,000 

Forest type Acres 

Hemlock 81,801 

HemlockAYhite spruce 49,893 

Hemlock/Sitka spruce 28,295 

White spruce 42,255 

Sitka spruce 12,185 

Birch 18,186 

Birch/Hemlock 99 

BirchAVhite spruce 7,552 

Birch/Sitka spruce 2,973 

CottonwoodAAdiite spruce 3,606 

Cottonwood/Sitka spruce 954 

Cottonwood/Balsam poplar 15,477 
Cottonwood/Birch 531 

Cottonwood/BirchAYhite spruce 50 
Aspen 3,010 

Aspen/Hemlock 111 

Aspen/Sitka spruce 1,557 

Aspen/Birch 378 

Black spruce 737 

No data 213 

Total Forest Types 269,479 


25 



Fig. 29 



Fig. 30 



26 



Fig. 31 



Fig. 32 



27 



utilization or disturbance of the resource except by the aboriginal people. In an interview 
with the Kenaitze tribe, the use of fire was discussed to reduce travel barriers between the 
Kenai area to the Russian River (Shuster, 1997). Microblade projectiles recorded along 
the Russian River and artifacts from a Kenai River area conclude that inhabitants of 
Kachemak tradition emphasized year round use of harvesting salmon and hunting land 
mammal at certain seasons possibly as early as 10,000 ybp on the Forest. Perhaps the 
earliest written occurrence of Russian occupancy on the Forest was in the late 1793 
(Pierce, 1980). Russian shipbuilders prospected in the Kenai Peninsula mountains for 
iron ore. It is said that burned rocks along Russian river are remainders from Russian 
iron smelting attempts. The iron ore was transported down along Resurrection River to 
the bay. The Russian mining engineer, Doroschin ascended the Kenai River in 1841 in 
search of gold prospects. He reported a major forest fire on the Kenai Peninsula in the 
Skilak River valley (Lutz, 1956). Geologic expeditions documented the general features 
of the land including fire occurrences in 1900 (Mendenhall, 1900). Mineral prospects at 
the time the Forest was created 1909-1915, indicated that a rapid settlement and 
development of this country took place in the late 1890’s. 

The coming of the American gold seekers saw the first use of the forests, exploiting the 
forests to obtain lumber for sluice boxes (Langille, 1904). Many of the gold seekers were 
careless with fire, with the result that they burned not only a large part of the timber but 
their cabins and outfits as well (Fig. 33, Holbrook, 1924). The forest utilization 
experienced a few local sawmills limited to a small percentage of timber needs of the 
inhabitants. The railroad contractors exploited the entire Kenai Lake region to obtain 
mountain hemlock ties for the line from the lake to the Arm (Fig. 34, Langille, 1904). 

Commentaries from the Foresters’ diaries early in this century, describe extensive fires 
on the Forest between 1913-1915 (Fed. Archives, Anchorage, AK). The basic causes for 
fires are attributed to railroad activity igniting the vegetation. The drought conditions 
following the 1912 Katmai Volcano eruption also contributed to the fire behavior 
creating favorable weather for burning. Holbrook (1924) also reports, ‘the region has 
been visited by numerous fires and most of the better grade of timber has been burned’. 
He mapped approximately 30,000 acres of burned area on the forest. The large 
disastrous fires include the 1896 fire in the Canyon Creek watershed covering 4,000 ac 
(Fig. 35, Fig 36), Juneau Creek, Kenai River, and Quartz Creek watersheds covering 
10,000 ac (Fig. 37, Fig. 38), and the Resurrection Creek watershed covering 10,000 ac 
(Fig. 39, Fig. 40) including the Hope fires (Fig. 41) namely Cripple Creek, Bear Creek 
and Sunrise (Fig. 42) fires (1904-1930) burning at least 6,000 ac cumulative. 

Little was known of the Kenai Peninsula’s biological characteristics before 1875. Until 
the nineties, it was evidently Stone barren-ground caribou, and moose were scarcely 
known to old residents. Between 1871 and 1910 widespread fires created habitat 
favorable to moose, and in the present century the Kenai has become famous for its great 
moose herds. Davis & Franzmann (1979) and Lutz (1956, 1960) describe fire-moose- 
caribou interrelationships. Unlike the moose, which prefers pioneer plant communities 
or at least 


28 




Fig. 33 



Fig. 34 


29 




Fig. 35 



Fig. 36 



30 



Fig. 37 



Fig. 38 



31 


Fig. 39 



Fig. 40 



32 



Fig. 41 



Fig. 42 



33 



vegetation representing early stages of successional development, the barren-ground 
caribou normally lives in environments characterized by climax plant communities, 
tundra and forest tundra transition. Buckley (1958) states that for those species, such as 
caribou, that require climax conditions, fire has undoubtedly reduced the quality of the 
range, and has contributed to the decline of caribou in Alaska noted during the first half 
of the century. With other species, such as moose, the result has been quite the opposite. 
A rapidly growing moose herd became evident about 1910, coincidental with the 
disappearance of caribou. 

Post-settlement history 

Human impact on the forests has varied and early impacts have been masked by those 
which came later. From 1914 to 1997 a total of 1364 fires are reported burning 65,000 
acres. Moose burns and hazardous reduction fires add an additional 10,000 acres. The 
presence of numerous hardwood forests, aging from 45-100 year old forest stands, reflects 
increases in human activities during the late 1800’s and into the mid-1950’s. Trees are 
harvested mostly for local timber and fuel needs as the land is cleared for settlements, 
railroads, roads, and power transmission lines. Fires are associated with all these human 
activities. During the period from 1914 to 1953 there was an average of 22.5 fires per year 
on the Kenai Peninsula portion of the Forest, of which (at least) 73 percent were related to 
railroad (Blanchet, 1987; Fig.43, Fig. 44). Fires averaged 62.7 acres in size yielding an 
average 1409 acres burned per year. Following the end of the steam engine era around 
1954, fires decreased sharply in both size and number on the Kenai. 

The tremendous amount of recreational use of the area results in a high incidence of 
human-caused fires (Vanderlinden, 1991). The most significant fires are the Kenai Lake 
fire in 1959 burned 3,278 acres, the Russian River fire in 1969 burned 2,730 acres/270 
acres on Forest land (Fig. 45), the Caribou Creek fire in 1985 burned 3,000 acres (Fig. 
46), and the Pothole Lakes fire burned 7,371 acres/544 on Forest land (Fig. 47). The 
Gull Rock area has had multiple fire occurrences through history, the most recent fire in 
1993, smoldered for 2 months in the fall (Fig. 48). These human-caused fires often are 
started in or near developed areas and can occur in a much greater range of conditions 
than lightning storms could occur. Past fire management direction has been to suppress 
all detected wildfires, primarily to protect urban areas; primarily timber harvesting to 
reduce fire hazards in Cooper Landing area (Fig 49, Fig. 51).. Although the actual acres 
of fires have decreased in the last century, the number of ignitions is still significant, 
increasing in the last decade (Fig. 50, Fig. 51). From 1914 to 1953 the main cause of 
ignition was related to railroad (Fig 50). Following the end of the steam engine era 
around 1954, the greatest cause of fires on the Kenai has been campfire starts by careless 
recreationalists (Fig 50). Perhaps -the feasibility of a very aggressive fire prevention 
program aimed at recreational users of the area needs to be investigated. 

Evidence of fire succession in the mountain hemlock/Lutz spruce forest type 

The effects on vegetation succession after settlement fires in the latter century reflect a 
tree re-establishment of mixed deciduous forests within 100 years after disturbance, pre- 


34 



Fig. 43 



Fig. 44 



35 



Fig. 45 



Fig. 46 



36 




Fig. 47 



Fig. 48 



37 


Fig. 49 



38 


# Fire Occurrences 


Fig. 50 


Fire History Causes 1914-1997 



Fig. 51 

Fire History Acres Burned 1914-1997 


30000 


25000 


20000 


o 15000 

< 


5000 


□ Hazard Reduction 
■ Moose Burns 

□ Wildfires 


1914-1919 1920-1929 1930-1939 1940-1949 1950-1959 1960-1969 1970-1979 1980-1989 1990-1997 

Years 


39 






1890. Birch is the most abundant tree in the larger acres burned, and on recently 
disturbed sites. The various birch forests sampled span a wide range of age structures 
which are similar to the hardwood stage of succession occurring 46-150 years after fire in 
the boreal forest ecosystem (Foote, 1983). In the subalpine environment of the Forest, 
the tree re-establishment process may Kenai lake has an even-aged stand of Lutz spruce 
dominated needleleaf forest. Scattered dead birch trees were found throughout the stand 
sampled. The stand age of the Lutz spruce examined in the Kenai Mountains is also 
similar to the white spruce stage of succession occurring 150-300 years after fire in the 
boreal forest ecosystem (Foote, 1983). Regeneration of mountain hemlock is occurring 
in the understory. The time it would take to reach a late successional forest dominated by 
mountain hemlock would take minimally another 100 years. Older Lutz spruce and 
mountain hemlock trees cored in the vicinity average between 300-350 years old. 


This disturbance polygon reflects the time for mountain hemlock to reinvade a site. It 
predominates in stands older than 200 years (Dickman and Cook, 1988). Radiocarbon 
date in the subsurface soil is 1540 +/- 40 ybp. Surface charcoal was not dated, yet is 
older then the present forest and younger then the previous fire event. Two other 
radiocarbon dates in the vicinity of this site on the North Shore of Kenai Lake have ages 
ranging from 2430 +/- 50 ybp and 570 +/- 60 ybp representing two additional fire events. 
This disturbance polygon indicates that a fire event occurred in the past greater then 200 
to 300 years before present. At least 300-400 years is predicted for a mature hemlock 
forest to dominate on this site after a stand replacing fire disturbance. 


Fire Management 


Fire Regime: 

The behavior of these nineteenth and twentieth century fires suggests that five distinct 
fire regimes exist side-by-side throughout the forest. The frequency of these fire regimes 
is variable throughout the Forest watersheds. The eastern portion of the Kenai Mountains 
have a coastal influence, limited fire occurrences are reported. The western portion of 
the Kenai Mountains sits in a rainshadow, with an interior drier climate, the fire regime is 
predicted to have more frequent fires. The settlement period reflects large acreages 
burned more extensively in this area. Although lightning is rare on the Peninsula, the 
limited documented occurrences have been reported in this portion of the Forest. 

The spatial arrangements of the communities on the Forest are influenced by temperature 
and moisture gradients. The communities in drier, warmer environments have the 
shortest fire intervals, whereas the communities in cooler, wetter environments have the 
longest fire intervals. These fire frequencies also reflect the landscape heterogeneity 
within which they occur. Needleleaf forests within this landscape are dominated by the 
following vegetation types. 

1) No fire occurrence - Sitka spruce forest along the coastal zone from sea level to 
timberline. No obvious fire disturbances were noted in the soil or age structure. 


40 



2) North facing upland cool, moist slopes have rare fire occurrence at edge of stands - 
Mountain hemlock on mountain sideslopes and ridges to timberline from the coastal zone 
to the interior of the forest. Charred bowls resembling shallow fire scars were found in 
small remnant gaps and at the edge of burns at the lower boundary of mountain hemlock 
forests. 

3) Infrequent natural lightening fire occurrence - Black spruce and bog habitats are 
relatively sparse and occur along toeslopes and valley bottoms . Fire evidence was noted 
on the edges of these habitats. 

4) Frequent human-fire occurrence - Lutz spruce (hybrid between white spruce and Sitka 
spruce) occurs in mixed stands with paper birch in the valley bottoms and mixes with 
mountain hemlock on the mid and lower portions of mountain sideslopes. The 
distribution of Lutz spruce is correlated with the historic burns which occurred 
predominately in valley bottoms and lower sideslopes. Fire travels from the valley 
bottom Lutz spruce stands, but often stops at the lower boundary of mountain hemlock 
dominated forests. Broadleaf forest within this landscape are dominated by paper birch 
which is plentiful, occupying many valley bottoms and upland sideslopes mixing with 
Lutz spruce and to a lesser degree with mountain hemlock. The wide distribution, age 
structure and abundance of birch reflects the past fire history of this century. Balsam 
poplar grows predominately on flood plains adjacent to rivers. Quaking aspen occurs 
sporadically on the very dry warm and well-drained sites in the rain shadow of the forest 
interior. Both hardwoods can be found on upland sites with a recent fire history. 

5) Frequent human-fire occurrence - Nonforest vegetation types, predominately brush 
and grassland with evidence of fire disturbance occur adjacent to the lutz spruce 
needleleaf forest types from sea level to timberline on a variety of slope positions. 

Alpine tundra consisting of mesic meadow, dwarf willow, heather and lichen 
communities did not appear to have experienced recent fire disturbances except at the 
edge of timberline. 


A fire-return interval of 1,146 years was estimated for the “Sitka spruce” type in western 
Washington and disturbance cycles of 400 years and 200 years from the northern and 
southern Oregon coasts (Agee et al. 1989, Agee, 1994). This is not meant to imply a 
precise return interval but does indicate that Sitka spruce forests burn rarely. 

Disturbances in “mountain hemlock forests” other than fire may be important in forest 
stand dynamics such as laminated root rot or mortality of individual standing trees 
(Dickman and Cook, 1989). It appears that multiple interactions between fire and fungus 
influence the fire-return interval of mountain hemlock and lodgepole pine in Oregon 
forests. Fire return intervals have been calculated between 200 years or less and 600 
years depending on the infestation of the fungus. Alaskan and Canadian interior white 
spruce forests burn about once every 113 years, fire cycles average 105-300 years along 
the Mackenzie & Porcupine Rivers of Alaska (Rowe et al., 1974; Yarie, 1981). On the 
Kenai Peninsula the climate is wetter then the interior boreal forest, yet drier then the 
coastal rainforest. The hybrid Lutz spruce forests would have fire frequencies that are 
longer then the interior, but shorter then the coastal rainforests. These four dominant 
coniferous forest species in southcentral Alaska reflect varying fire cycles, however 


41 



cumulatively this southern region of the boreal forest zone reflects a long-interval stand 
replacement fire regime. 

Fire Risk: 

Risk of natural fires has been described as being low in these spruce-hemlock plant 
associations of the Chugach National Forest portion of the Kenai Peninsula because of 
unfavorable cool and wet fire weather, rapid natural decay, and a low occurrence of 
natural lightening ignitions. The majority of fires on the Forest are human caused as 
lightening occurs very infrequently, less than 3 occurrences were reported in the last 
century. Beginning in the early 20* century until the 1950’s there was a period of high 
fire frequency from railroad activity on the Kenai Peninsula portion of the Chugach 
National Forest. These fires have decreased in acreages burned as fire prevention 
techniques improved following the end of the steam engine era around 1953. 

The number of occurrences is still significant on the forest, since 1960’s the greatest 
cause of fires on the Kenai Peninsula portion of the Chugach National Forest has been 
campfire starts by careless recreationists. Due to the increase in population and better 
detection on the Forest, the number of occurrences appears to be increasing in this recent 
decade. Location of fire starts on the Kenai Peninsula portion of the Chugach National 
Forest between 1960 and 1997 concentrate almost exclusively along the road corridor 
(Blanchet, 1987; CIS point occurrences data layer, 1997). Since the 1960’s, Cooper 
Landing, Crown Point and Moose Pass areas show particularly high concentrations of 
fire starts (Appendix M). Fire suppression activities in the future are likely to continue to 
concentrate in these areas. The highway corridor from the Forest Boundary on the 
Sterling Highway (at Russian River) over to Crown Point on the Seward Highway is 
particularly susceptible. With the exception of the Russian Lakes Trail, fire starts along 
Forest trail systems are generally quite low. Unfortunately these fire starts along trails 
sometimes burn much greater acreages since they are farther removed from access by fire 
suppression crews. The Russian Lakes Trail shows a considerable fire start history, 
particularly in the vicinity of Lower Russian Lake. This high concentration of fire starts 
is likely due to both the high use of this trail (especially up to Lower Russian Lake) and 
the relatively low precipitation received by this area. 


The majority of fire starts and large fires have occurred primarily in these grassland 
vegetation types in early fire season, from mid April, May and June, with some activity 
in August and September (J. See, 1997 pers. comm.). Ignitions in the spring spread 
rapidly in grassland and either stop due to higher moist surfaces or slow down to 
creeping upon reaching the brush and forest or crown fires develop where slope angles 
increase. Locations that have burned and return initially in grass are very susceptible to 
reburning when the previous year’s dead grasses are exposed and dried. The window for 
burning increases during late spring from 10-14 hours and gets narrower in late 
September reduced to 3 hours long in these fine flashy 1 hour fuels. In the fall, after the 
season’s frost again kills the grass vegetation, it is susceptible to burning if weather 
conditions permit and snow pack hasn’t compacted the grass into a mat (J. See, 1997 
pers. comm.). 


42 



Fire Hazard: 

Fuels analysis is limiting but cannot be divorced from fire occurrence. The time required 
for fuel accumulation modulates the control of climate and weather over fire occurrence 
and may be a critical factor in the Forest fire cycle. Although ignitions and small, low- 
intensity fires may occur at any time on the Forest given suitable weather, fuel 
accumulation may require 150-200 years to reach a point where it can support intense 
fires capable of damaging and killing canopy trees. The most flammable fuels pose no 
threat if there are no ignitions. The large fire occurrences on the Forest, with only limited 
lightening suggest human cause disturbances. Human-caused fires account for over 99% 
of all fires on the Forest indicating that a prevention program could be successful. The 
large number of acres burned on the Forest during settlement indicates that human-cause 
ignitions, fuel loads, and weather conditions were optimal for burning. These mature 
forest stands that burned must have had sufficient fuels to result in stand replacement 
fires, being at or near the upper end of historical fire intervals. Suspect drought 
conditions probably contributed to the higher acreages burned. Although the written fire 
history prior to 1950 is sketchy, drought weather conditions resulting from the 1912 
Katmai eruption have been suggested to contribute to large scale fires from 1913-1915 
burning approximately 20,000 acres on the Forest, 1915 was recorded as the worst fire 
year on record. 


The present forest conditions resulting in increased fuel loads from beetle kill, careless 
human-caused ignitions and drought weather conditions are important mechanisms for 
fire managers to evaluate for predicting risks and hazardous large scale fire occurrences 
on the Forest. Long-term drying (drought) conditions occur on the average once every 
five years on the Kenai Peninsula. “Red flag” weather conditions (high wind speed and 
low humidities <30%) occur on the average once every five years. The odds of both 
events occurring simultaneously are between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 years (estimated) 
because they are not totally independent events (Sees, 1997). History supports this 
assertion considering the frequency of large wildland fires on the Kenai Peninsula. Large 
fires (> 600 acres, pers. comm. J. See, 1997) have not been very common on the Forest in 
the last 25 years, with only 2 fires recorded greater than 100 acres. However, there has 
been a large fire on the Peninsula every 10 to 20 years. Fire data summarized on the 
Forest from 1971-1992 reported “high fire years” in pairs in 1973 and 1974 with 23 and 
26 fire occurrences, and again in 1983 and 1984 with 10 and 13 fire occurrences 
(Rounsaville, 1992). Recent fire data summarized for the 1990 decade has 1993 with 35 
and 24 fire occurrences in 1994, both seasons were longer and drier than usual (M. Black, 
1995). Presently 1997 had 28 fires and 1998 is predicted to be another high fire season. 


“El Nino” climatic events occurred in 1972-1973, 1982-1983, 1991-1992 and 1997-1998, 
the later being the strongest in this century (Appendix M). High fire seasons throughout 
Alaska have followed El Nino (pers. comm. NOAA weather forecasters, 1997). El Nino 
activity is difficult to correlate with patterns of precipitation due to the fluctuations in the 
split jetstreams (pers. comm. Sue Eerguson, 1997). El Nino events are correlated with 
less snow cover at lower elevations due to warmer temperatures then normal in winter 


43 



and spring, snow melts earlier resulting in longer fire season’s. Insect populations could 
be greater than normal. Cold damage to plants may be greater than normal as seasonal 
frosts occur after abnormal warm periods predisposing plants to invasion by insect 
infestations at these wound sites. 


Conclusions 

Fire, as a natural occurrence, has contributed to the landscape diversity most recently in 
the settlement period on the Kenai Peninsula portion of the Chugach National Forest and 
periodically for the last several thousand years. Prior to the settlement period of the late 
1800’s, the majority of the age structures of coniferous forests surveyed were recorded to 
be in late successional stages. The results of this study reflect the vegetation community 
component of landscape diversity was lower prior to the settlement period (i.e., prior to 
1740) and increased in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s during a period of major fire 
occurrences. The largest fires on the Forest occurred during the settlement period with 
mining and mineral exploration from 1849-1902, followed by railroad development 
between 1903-1953. 


The present landscape mosaic reflects past human-caused wildfires over the last 150 
years, creating vast areas of successional ecosystems. These wildfires and prescribed fire 
in the last few decades, (primarily small moose burn fires) has generally increased the 
richness and patchiness of the vegetation types, the natural fire regime generally 
decreases vegetation diversity. The richness of the vegetation mosaic resulting from fire 
disturbances in this century have significantly influenced wildlife habitat from a caribou 
to a moose dominated system. The richness of the vegetation community component 
supporting serai species appears to have decreased during the last half-century as a result 
of fire suppression. Present spruce bark beetle effects present a new sequence of 
vegetation mosaics. 


Of the 270,000 thousand acres of forested lands, 35,000 acres is the mixed deciduous 
forests of birch, aspen and spruce reflecting fire disturbances. The Forest is dominated 
by mountain hemlock trees comprising 160,000 acres; 82,000 acres is pure mountain 
hemlock, 78,000 acres is mixed mountain hemlock/white and Sitka spruce. Charcoal 
fragments in the soil were found across a wide expanse of these hemlock forest types. 
The frequency of fire regime is variable throughout the Forest watersheds. The eastern 
portion of the Kenai Mountains have a coastal influence, limited fire occurrences are 
reported. The western portion of the Kenai Mountains sits in a rainshadow, with an 
interior drier climate, the fire regime is predicted to have more frequent fires. The 
settlement period reflects large acreages burned more extensively in this area. Although 
lightning is rare on the Peninsula, the limited documented occurrences have been 
reported in this portion of the Forest. 


44 



Although abiotic disturbances such as wind, snow avalanche, landslides, glacial 
recession, and flooding have been recognized for the important ways in which they 
influence the pattern of vegetation and tree recruitment on the Forest, the role of fire is 
now recognized as an important disturbance process over many millennia in this 
transition climate. The results illustrate a long interval fire cycle that could have 
controlled the recruitment and mortality of most spruce and probably most hemlock trees 
in this forest over the past 500-3,000 yrs. The historical records of fires and tree ages, 
together with the present mature forests and beetle kill fuel loads, suggest that the next 
interval of stand-regenerating fires is near. The present forest conditions resulting in 
increased fuel loads from beetle kill, careless human-caused ignitions and drought 
weather conditions are important mechanisms for fire managers to evaluate for predicting 
risks and hazardous large scale fire occurrences on the Forest. 


45 



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Pothole Lake Fire Contingency Plan. 27 pp. 

Viereck, L.A. 1973. Wildfire in the Taiga of Alaska. Quaternary Research 3, 465-495. 

Viereck, L.A., C.T. Dyrness, A.R. Batten, and K.J. Wenzlick. The Alaska Vegetation 
Classification. USDA Forest Service. Pacific Northwest Research Station. 
GTR-286. 

Walter, H. 1985. Vegetation of the Earth and Ecological Systems of the Geo-biosphere. 
Springer- Verlag, NY. 334pp. 

Yarie, J. 1981. Forest fire cycles and life tables: a case study from interior Alaska. Can. 
J. For Res. 11: 554-562. 


48 



Appendix A 


Chugach National Forest AMS 
Prescribed Fire Management 
written by 
Michele Potkin 
November, 1997 


49 



Prescribed Fire Management 

Prescribed fires and natural fires have become part of the working tools of today’s fire managers, 
who have an ever-expanding set of land management goals, including protection of commercial 
timber, managing fuels around rural developments (also called the urban interface), and 
reintroducing or maintaining the natural role of fire in forest ecosystems (Agee, 1996). The 
national policy on “forest health” is to use a variety of methods to alter conditions perceived to 
be “unhealthy”, including prescribed fire for fuel reduction and ecosystem restoration. Within 
the last decade, the economic feasibility of harvesting timber on the Chugach National Forest has 
been reevaluated. The Chugach cannot be considered a major timber producing forest at this 
point in time (Timber Considerations in the Chugach Forest Plan Revision, 1997). Current fire 
management on the Forest is assessing alternatives to include the use of prescribed fire and 
criteria for determining the priorities for treatment: 1) fuel reduction, 2) potential for 
improvement of wildlife habitat, 3) ability to protect anadromous and high value resident fish 
streams, and 4) opportunities for creating species and age class diversity to maintain ecosystem 
integrity, 5) public concerns about hazards, risks, esthetics, and recreation. 


Historical use of prescribed fire 
I. Hazard reduction 

Fire management on the Chugach National Forest portion of the Kenai Peninsula has focused on 
managing increased fuels from the beetle epidemic around the “urban/wildland interface”. 
Prescribed fires were evaluated to be used to reduce hazardous fuel loadings and maintain fuel 
breaks which play an important role reducing high intensity wildfires and potential losses of 
homes and businesses. The Chugach National Forest is concerned about providing protection of 
human life and property, particularly in Cooper Landing, Moose Pass, Crown Point and Hope 
Townsite areas on the Kenai Peninsula. 


From 1990 the Forest Service focused on fuel reduction for 2,700 acres of heavily infested 
stands after evaluating two Cooper Landing Environment Assessments (1986 & 1990). The 
prescribed treatments included 350 acres of prescribed fire and 2,350 acres with timber sales and 
mechanical fuel reduction contracts. The completion of this work was sporadic due to timber 
sale defaults, no bid sales, limited access and increasing spruce mortality. Sales of standing dead 
trees have generally not been successful. In retrospect, fuels reduction associated with 2,350 
acres of timber harvest began in 1991 and was successfully completed in 1994, reducing the high 
risk to Cooper Landing residents. 


Only a limited number of prescribed burns were implemented by management on selected slash 
piles associated with timber harvesting. From 1992-1993, 145 acres of slash was piled and 
burned. Although the 350 acres of prescribed treatments were not completed, substantial natural 
fuel breaks surrounding the Cooper Landing area provide ample protection from wildland fires 


50 



burning into town (pers. comm., W. Oja, 1997). The 1991 Pothole Lakes fire provided an 
unexpected natural fuel break in the vicinity of a proposed prescribed burn. The 1959 Kenai 
Lake fire and the 1969 Russian River fire also provide natural fuel breaks in the vicinity. The 
mixed broadleaf forest provides a natural fuel break under normal weather conditions. Under 
adverse weather conditions associated with the Big Lake fire 1996, the broadleaf forests ignited 
unexpectedly when dry. 


The Moose Pass and Crown Point areas also have an increase in fuel loading and fire hazard 
associated with the beetle killed spruce forests. The environmental assessment (1994) addressed 
six critical areas surrounding Moose Pass and Crown Point for fuel reduction. Two timber 
harvest activities have occurred on both Forest Service and State Land initially proposed as fuel 
breaks (pers. comm. W. Oja, 1997). Prescribed burning was proposed as alternatives on Forest 
Service land to create firebreaks along the road corridors. The use of prescribed fire in the 
vicinity of Moose Pass and Crown Point is limited due to the proximity of burning close to these 
two urban interfaces. However, the proximity of lakes and the mixed deciduous forests north 
and south of Moose pass provide natural fire breaks. The Seward Ranger District recently 
developed a five year prescribed fire plan (June 1997) for 1998-2001, to treat 7,230 acres to 
improve both wildlife and fuels reduction encompassing Federal lands in these vicinities. 


It is important to note that the Forest condition over much of the early part of this century did not 
involve dead spruce (Rounsaville, 1992). The sizes of fires on the Forest have decreased since 
the fire suppression program was initiated in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Culbertson (1977) states 
that effective wildfire suppression by man in the area did not occur until the 1950’s and 1960’s. 
There have been no increases in fire numbers or fire sizes that could be attributed to the increase 
in dead fuels on the Forest. The spruce bark beetle impacts did not become a part of the fire 
picture until the last ten (10) to fifteen (15) years. Spruce bark beetles (SBB) infestations were 
first noted in the 1920’s in Alaska. The 1960’s saw the first attacks on the Kenai Peninsula. On 
the Chugach National Forest portion of the Kenai Peninsula, over 56,000 acres were infested by 
1984 and over 12,000 acres had suffered heavy mortality. The current total is over >70,000 
acres infested. Reports from inland show that spruce bark beetles have spread to near 
Anchorage. There is nothing to suggest that the infestation is slowing or stopping. 


One of the most significant effects of spruce bark beetle activity is the invasion of grass into the 
understory after the dying crowns allow additional sunlight for photosynthesis. The surface 
coverage of blue joint reed grass has been shown to increase from under 5 % to over 50 % five 
years after a spruce bark beetle attack. Total fuel loadings (vegetation) increased from about 10 
tons per acre to over 35 to 100 tons per acre. When sustained dry conditions occur in the spring 
fire season, fire danger can increase very rapidly. Fuel loadings that are heavy with an 
abundance of flashy surface fuels can spread fire into beetle killed spruce jackstraw resulting in 
hot, intense fires. 


51 



This extreme fire behavior characteristic was observed during 1996, the Crooked Creek Fire 
made a run in excess of eight miles in one burning period, 18 hours from the start. This beetle 
kill grass/timber fuel type burns 20 times faster and 6 times more intensely than the fuel type 
associated with healthy white spruce stands, particularly in the spring and early fall when the 
grass is cured (J. See, 1997). These results support the concept in fuel management that fuel 
consumption which eliminates large logs contributes little to hazard reduction since the greatest 
potential for the ignition and spread of fire is among the fine fuels. Although large diameter 
fuels add to the total fuel load of a site, their fire-hazard potential depends greatly on the 
presence of fine fuels. 


Historically, fire occurrence and weather patterns on the East half of the Kenai Peninsula 
indicate a marginal chance of extreme of fire behavior conditions occurring (M. Black, 1995). 
Interpretation of John See’s weather and fire behavior analysis for the Cooper Landing project 
indicate less than a 2% chance of having a “bad” fire day each fire season, based on a 150 day 
fire season (M. Black, 1995). Presently, the new beetle kill grass/timber fuel type emerging can 
be very dangerous (J. See, 1997). Rapid rates of spread can outrun a person, especially when the 
fire is being pushed upslope by the wind. 


The Cooper Landing area receives an average of 26 inches of precipitation annually. The Moose 
Pass and Crown Point areas have a moister climate, with an average annual precipitation of 40 
inches below timberline, or roughly 14 inches more annual precipitation than Cooper Landing. 
These are two driest areas within the urban/wildland areas. Both areas are subject to periodic 
high winds at all times of the year. 


Due to the removal of timber representing the larger 100-1,000 hour fuels, the risk of hot intense 
fires has been reduced in the vicinity of Cooper Landing. The fine flashy fuel build-up of 
understory grass and brush still remains a hazard in the area. Grass fires have a rapid rate of 
spread, yet can be more readily controlled compared to the grass/timber fuel type (pers. comm. 
W. Oja, 1997). 


Fuel reduction by mechanically removing standing dead trees at the urban interface maybe 
necessary since the consequences of a prescribed fire getting out of control along this boundary 
may be significant. However, this only addresses part of the problem. The increased use of 
prescribed burning to treat the active fine fuels has risks and might not be applicable especially 
in urban interface areas. 


Timber reduction by mechanically removing standing dead trees is not recommended when large 
fuels are needed to support a fire of adequate duration to penetrate the organic mat exposing 
mineral soil. Moose burn studies show that dead trees were needed on the site to generate 
adequate fire intensities (Weixelman, 1987). Moose burn sites needed slash burns which created 
very favorable hardwood seedling and sprouting conditions. Nonslash burns resulted in lower fire 
intensities and patchier burns with widely varying amounts of browse establishment. It is 


52 



possible that fires in these spruce beetle/grass fuel forest types will be less hazardous in areas 
with increased rotten logs which pick up moisture faster than sound logs. In the early fire season 
these sites will have less hazardous fires in the spring, although fine fuels will have dried out, the 
larger size rotten fuels will still be slightly wet and only partially consumed by a fire. 


II. Habitat Enhancement 

It is well documented that fire plays an important part in the ecology of moose in southcentral 
Alaska (Spencer and Hakala). Since 1883, large wildfires on the peninsula have created prime 
moose winter range. Many known fire occurrences (1896, 1906, 1908, 1913, 1914, 1915) during 
the late 1800’s and early 1900’s burned approximately 30,000 acres on the Forest. Since this 
time, large fires had been rare, until the occurrences of the 1959 Kenai Lake, the 1969 Russian 
River Lake, the 1985 Caribou Creek, and the 1991 Pothole Lake fires burning approximately 
17,000 acres. 


Culbertson (1977) sites one of the earliest reports on moose range problems on the Kenai was by 
Edwards in the 1940’s. He reported range deterioration due primarily to moose numbers 
exceeding the range’s carrying capacity. Effective wildfire suppression by humans in the area 
since the 1950’s and 1960’s has been cited as a cause of disappearing moose range. Railroad 
fires in many instances favored winter browse species for moose (Blanchet, 1987). Moose 
winter range along the railroad has diminished since the number and size of fires on the forest 
prior to 1953 were primarily related to the railroad. 


A prescribed fire program from 1976 to 1993 treated 9,880 acres on moose winter range on the 
Chugach National Eorest. This was part of an ongoing project to increase the quantity and 
quality of hardwood browse available to moose on winter range where current browse 
productivity was low. In addition, with the encroachment of the urban interface on traditional 
moose wintering areas, it became necessary to rejuvenate old ranges or create new ranges to 
reduce the pressures on existing moose winter ranges. The District’s landmass can support 500 
to 1,000 acres/year in prescribed burning for wildlife enhancement (pers. comm. Susan Howell, 
1997). These acres were determined in 1977, when 139 areas including 22,000 acres were 
identified to be treated with prescribed fire (L. Culbertson, 1977). Since 1977, approximately 
10,000 acres were burned, which averaged 625 acres per year. In reality, burn unit size ranged 
from 30-2,500 acres (Prescribed Burning R-10, Regional Office). 


The two vegetation types treated for prescribed burning for moose habitat improvement on the 
Eorest were spruce-hardwood and shrubby willow occurring entirely in the valleys and valley 
floors of watersheds. These areas correspond to the early settlement burned areas which created 
the majority of moose habitat in the early part of this century. Adequate fire intensities were 
generated by slash burns which created very favorable hardwood seedling and sprouting 
conditions. Nonslash burns resulted in lower fire intensities and patchier burns with widely 
varying amounts of browse establishment. All burns from 1976 to 1986 were spring burns 
conducted in May and June. Burning in the fall from September to November is recommended 


53 



after the first killing frost or natural curing of grasses. The advantage to burning during the fall 
is that the drier litter and duff layers will create hotter fires at ground level. This will result in 
greater consumption of the moss and duff layers allowing for improved hardwood seedling 
growing conditions (Weixelman, 1987). 


In a recent study of boreal forest stands in southcentral Alaska, a combination of overstory 
reduction and timely exposure of mineral soil was essential for promoting early successional 
hardwood growth and associated habitat enhancement (Collins, 1996). Prescribed fire in 
southcentral Alaska has been shown to be the most economical and natural means to accomplish 
habitat enhancement (Collins, 1996). However, habitats created by burning favor some animals 
and discriminate against others. In planning for the management of the wide variety of forest 
animals, options must be considered. For areas managed primarily for caribou winter range, 
complete fire suppression may be the best policy; whereas within areas established primarily for 
moose management, it may be possible to allow all wildfires to burn unless they endanger life or 
property or threaten to expand into areas with higher priority for fire suppression (Davis & 
Franzmann, 1979; Klein, 1982). Although burning may improve access to seeds and other 
foods, fire is probably more neutral than beneficial to most birds and small mammals (Quilan, 
1978). 


Preparation of prescribed burning to insure the desired fire intensity will also affect bird and 
small mammal community succession. Early successional stages support fewer species, lower 
densities, and lower diversities of breeding birds and small mammal populations than mature 
forest on the Kenai Peninsula. The breeding birds associated with white spruce on the forest 
may not return to mature forest levels for 20-40 years following wildfire (Quilan, 1978). The 
highest trapping success of 8 small mammal species; northern red-backed vole, masked shrew, 
wandering shrew, tundra vole, red squirrel, least shrew and snowshoe hare occurred in forests 
older then 120 and 200 years. Based on densities of each species in the various aged stands. 
Black-capped Chickadees, Boreal Chickadees, Brown Creepers, Swainson’s Thrushes, Golden- 
crowned Kinglets, and White-winged Crossbills appear to prefer white spruce forest 100 years or 
older (Quilan, 1978). 


Conditions Current in the Prince William Sound and Copper River Delta ecosystems of the 
Chugach National Forest - 

Management direction in the current Forest Plan is to use prescribed fire as appropriate, for 
silvicultural site preparation, wildlife habitat improvement, or slash hazard treatment. The use of 
prescribed fire as a tool for resource management is limited in the Pacific Coastal Mountain 
Forest-Meadow Provinces and the Gulf Coastal Mountain Forest-Meadow Provinces (Davidson, 
D.F. 1996), because of unfavorable cool and wet fire weather, rapid natural decay and a low 
occurrence of natural lightening ignitions. Prescribed fire is often undependable due to shortness 
of burning opportunities and weather limitations during the burning season. 


54 



Conditions Current on the Kenai Peninsula ecosystems of the Chugach National Forest - 

Current fire management in the Alaska Mixed Forest Province is most concerned with managing 
increased 1) hazards from fuels from both the mature forest structure and the beetle epidemic, 2) 
risks from recreation use which has resulted in a high occurrence of ignitions and areas with a 
high fuel complex adjacent to the “urban/wildland interface”. In addition, wildlife managers 
want to continue to introduce fire as a tool for habitat enhancement. 


The present forest conditions resulting in increased fuel loads from beetle kill, careless human- 
caused ignitions and drought weather conditions are important mechanisms for fire managers to 
evaluate for predicting risks and hazardous large scale fire occurrences on the Forest. Long-term 
drying (drought) conditions occur on the average once every five years on the Kenai Peninsula. 
“Red flag” weather conditions (high wind speed and low humidities <30%) occur on the average 
once every five years. The odds of both events occurring simultaneously are between 1 in 10 
and 1 in 20 years (estimated) because they are not totally independent events (Sees, 1997). 
History supports this assertion considering the frequency of large wildland fires on the Kenai 
Peninsula. Large fires (> 600 acres, pers. comm. J. See, 1997) have not been very common on 
the Forest in the last 25 years, with only 2 fires recorded greater than 100 acres. However, there 
has been a large fire on the Peninsula every 10 to 20 years. Fire data summarized on the Forest 
from 1971-1992 reported “high fire years” in pairs in 1973 and 1974 with 23 and 26 fire 
occurrences, and again in 1983 and 1984 with 10 and 13 fire occurrences (Rounsaville, 1992). 
Recent fire data summarized for the 1990 decade has 1993 with 35 and 24 fire occurrences in 
1994, both seasons were longer and drier than usual (M. Black, 1995). Presently 1997 had 28 
fires and 1998 is predicted to be another high fire season. 


Regional climate of “El Nino” events occurred in 1972-1973, 1982-1983, 1991-1992 and 1997- 
1998, the later being the strongest in this century. High fire seasons throughout Alaska have 
followed El Nino (pers. comm. NOAA weather forecasters, 1997). El Nino activity is difficult to 
correlate with patterns of precipitation due to the fluctuations in the split jetstreams (pers. comm. 
Sue Eerguson, 1997). El Nino’s events are correlated with less snow cover at lower elevations 
due to warmer temperatures then normal in winter and spring, snow melts earlier resulting in 
longer fire season’s. Insect populations could be greater than normal. Cold damage to plants 
may be greater than normal as seasonal frosts occur after abnormal warm periods predisposing 
plants to invasion by insect infestations at these wound sites. 


I. Hazard Reduction 

The nature of the fuel complex in the mature forests is of concern. The time required for fuel 
accumulation modulates the control of climate and weather over fire occurrence and may be a 
critical factor in the forest fire cycle. The mature forests stands at the time of settlement must 
have had sufficient fuels to result in stand replacement fires, being at or near the upper end of 
historical fire intervals (pers. comm. S. Barrett, 1996). Existing fuel loadings from a 1994 study 
in the Resurrection Creek drainage of the Chugach National Eorest averaged 35 tons per acre in 
dead and down spruce beetle fuels. Euel loadings in wetter climatic areas averaging 12-14 tons 


55 



per acre are considered to be at hazardous levels during fire season. Presently the status of fuel 
maps on both state and federal forestlands are insufficient due to the inadequacy of the fuels data 
(pers. comm. J. See, 1997). Most of the fuels data in both state and federal agency GIS data 
centers is older then 5 years and the fuel loads have changed drastically within the beetle killed 
spruce forest types. The dynamic ongoing insect infestation changes the fuel complex over time 
fairly rapidly in a somewhat unpredictable fashion. It is difficult to predict exactly what the 
degree/scope of infestation will be over time, whether a stand will be 100% killed, when dead 
standing trees will fall (M. Black, 1995). 


II. Habitat enhancement 

The encroachment of the urban interface on traditional moose wintering areas still remains a 
problem. It is still necessary to rejuvenate old ranges or create new ranges to reduce the 
pressures on existing moose winter ranges. The District’s landmass can support 500 to 1,000 
acres/year in prescribed burning for wildlife enhancement (pers. comm., S. Howell, 1997). 

These acres were determined in 1977, when 139 areas including 22,000 acres were identified to 
be treated with prescribed fire (Culbertson, 1977). Since 1977, approximately 10,000 acres were 
burned, which averaged 625 acres per year. In reality, burn unit size ranged from 30-2,500 
acres. The program decreased over the last several years due to weather conditions unfavorable 
for burning, and a lack of personnel with the appropriate qualifications. The program is 
currently on the upswing, with a 450 acres burn in 1993 and a prescribed fire plan for 1998-2001 
for the Seward Ranger District addressing habitat enhancement on moose winter range. 


Need to establish or change management direction in the Prince William Sound or Copper 
River Delta ecosystems of the Chugach National Forest - 

Criteria for use of prescribed fire to improve Forest conditions will be evaluated, however there 
will be limited use due to weather conditions (annual precipitation exceeds 100 inches in many 
areas). Management needs are limited in the Prince William Sound and Copper River areas 
concerning the use of prescribed fire as a tool for resource management. 


Need to establish or change management direction on the Kenai Peninsula ecosystem of the 
Chugach National Forest - 

A prescribed fire program has been in effect on the Forest since 1976 for wildlife improvement, 
and since 1990 for hazard reduction. Current management needs to address 1) the increased fuel 
loads and areas which have increased fire hazards. 2) the increased risk of fires caused from 
human ignitions, 3) habitat improvement to meet the recreational demands of game hunting and 
viewing on the Seward Ranger District, 4) the natural role of fire in sustaining ecosystem 
integrity, and 5) public concerns about the use of fire in national forest management. 


While the use of prescribed fire can be used as a tool for management on the Forest, fire 
disturbance processes may take decades or a century or more for tree re-establishment in this 
maritime climate where infrequent fire regimes can occur over a millennia. The dominance of 


56 



deciduous trees presently on the Forest resulted from historic burning. These sites supported a 
mature age structure of the needleleaf forest vegetation prior to disturbance over 150 years ago. 
The fire regime has long intervals between fire events suggesting that fire is not the primary 
disturbance agent necessary for all tree recruitment on the Forest. 


There is concern that the logistics of site preparation involved are expensive and the prescription 
windows are narrow due to weather constraints. The window of opportunity to successfully 
conduct a prescribed fire program can be limited and unpredictable due to the short periods in 
the spring and fall for burning and not all springs are conducive for burning. Some burning 
seasons may be exceptionally wet or dry which might preclude the completion of some of the 
burning units. Other years may have conditions which allow for additional acres to be treated. 


I. Hazard reduction 

Current management direction needs to evaluate fuel loadings in critical areas on the Forest. The 
last fire behavior and fuel models evaluated for Cooper Landing Environmental Assessment 
(1990) no longer apply to the Forest since present fuel loads and conditions have changed over 
the last seven years. The most important need on the Forest is to have a prescribed fire program 
for reduction of fuels, making wildfires less damaging to the urban/wildland environment and 
more easily controlled. The nature of the fuel complex in the mature forests needs further study. 
The understory grass and brush may require mechanical treatment in urban interface areas to 
reduce fine flashy fuel fire hazards and to initiate recruitment of tree cover which will eventually 
shade and reduce understory cover. There is a need to further evaluate the best season for 
burning fine flashy grass fuels and associated fire behavior on the Forest. There is a need to 
further exam whether removal of timber is necessary in other areas of the Forest with a mixed 
broadleaf forest or in a cool, wet spruce-hemlock and pure hemlock forests to reduce high fire 
intensities. Although it is recommended to expose mineral soil for regeneration of boreal forest 
species, the implications that hot intense fire would increase soil erosion and alter regrowth need 
to be evaluated on the Forest. 


II. Risk of fires caused from human ignitions 

Although ignitions and small, low-intensity fires may occur at any time on the Forest given 
suitable weather, fuel accumulation may require 150-200 years to reach a point where it can 
support intense fires capable of damaging and killing canopy trees. The most flammable fuels 
pose no threat if there are no ignitions. The large fire occurrences on the Forest, with only 
limited lightening suggest human cause ignitions. Human-caused fires account for over 99% of 
all fires on the Forest indicating a need for a prevention program to educate the public on fire 
behavior, fire season, emphasizing high fire hazard and risk in high use recreational areas. The 
greatest threat to life and property in these urban/wildland areas is probably from an accidental 
human caused fire starting within or adjacent to private structures, rather than from a fire burning 
into structures from the outside (M. Black, 1997). 


57 



III. Habitat enhancement 


Wildlife populations, and moose in particular have or are reaching their maximum ability to 
provide for peoples needs in Alaska (Culbertson, 1977). Moose range has been deteriorating on 
the Forest since 1950’s, the old burned areas of the early settlement fires creating winter range 
moose habitat have reached later successional stages. Wildlife biologist, Susan Howell on the 
Seward Ranger District, recommends an increase in use of prescribed fire treatments as a means 
to achieve desirable habitat conditions for moose and other species requiring early serai stages of 
vegetation types providing more diversity of habitats. 


Current use of prescribed fire for moose habitat improvement might well be warranted, however 
these management practices might not be emulating past ecosystem functioning. There is a need 
to clarify the management of reestablishing moose habitat through use of prescribed fire because 
it might be viewed as “artificial ecology”, the population densities of moose are being 
maintained at higher numbers compared to presettlement occurrences. There is a need to clarify 
the role of fire as a factor in the evolution of the forest and animal species on the Kenai 
Peninsula. Fire has created habitat for moose, snowshoe hares, and other wildlife dependent on 
early serai vegetation, public demands to maintain high moose populations needs to be 
considered in future management objectives. There is a need for management to determine 
population densities for forest bird and small mammal species requiring mature forest habitats. 


IV. Other potential uses of prescribed burning for ecosystem management 

Other natural disturbances such as insect infestations, windthrow, avalanche, and flooding create 
gaps for tree recruitment. These forest ecosystem processes need to be evaluated concerning the 
natural role of fire in sustaining ecosystem integrity. The role of fire is presently being 
questioned in forest pathology research, in conjunction with the fungal pathogens role in forest 
structure. Recent studies have shown that fire can reduce fungal pathogen in the soil in mature 
forests, provided the fires are hot enough to burn the root systems and through the duff layer to 
mineral soil, thus providing another natural role of fire in forest ecosystems (Dickman & Cook, 
1988; Filip & Yang-Erve, 1997). 


V. Public concerns about the use of fire in national forest management 

There is a need to educate the public about the role of fire and associated risks and hazards of 
prescribed burning. Prescribed fire is an appropriate management tool on the Kenai Peninsula 
considering the current ecological conditions. A prescribed fire plan addressing guidelines for 
the Chugach National Forest has been approved (USDA, Forest Service, 1997). The mature 
forest fuel complex combined with the grass/spruce beetle fuel type presents optimal fire 
opportunities on the Forest. The large number of acres burned on the Forest during settlement 
indicates that human-cause ignitions, fuel loads, and weather conditions were optimal for 
burning. Presently, the forest conditions resulting in increased fuel loads from beetle kill, 
careless human-caused ignitions and drought weather conditions are important mechanisms for 
fire managers to evaluate for predicting risks and hazardous large scale fire occurrences on the 
Forest. 


58 



Prescribed fire may be the most difficult vegetation management activity to implement due to air 
quality issues and regulations. Smoke management must be a strong consideration in deciding 
on the extent and location of some burn activities, wind direction being critical to carry smoke 
away from populated areas. Special areas such as Wilderness Study Areas, and potential Wild 
and Scenic Rivers, may require special consideration for air quality because of the high 
recreation use in these areas. Increased urban-interface situations need to receive special 
consideration when developing tactics and strategies for fire management operations. 

Literature Cited 

Agee, James K. 1996. Fire Management for the 21st Century - The Science of Ecosystem 

Management. In Section II. Silvicultural Systems and Management Concerns. Chpt. 12 
Island Press, Wash. D.C. 191-201 pp. 

Barrett, Steve. 1996. Personal communication consulting research Forester/Fire Specialist, 
Missoula, Montana. 

Black, Mark C. 1995. Fire Suppression/ Air Quality/Fuels Management Resource Report for the 
Moose Pass Project Study Area. 

Blanchet, Dave. 1987. Fire History on the Kenai Peninsula portion of the Chugach National 
Forest 1914-1986 

Collins, William B. 1996. Wildlife Habitat Enhancement in the Spruce-Hardwood Forest of the 
Matanuska and Susitna River Valleys. Study 1.44 Alaska Department of Fish and Game 
Division of Wildlife Conservation. 

Culbertson, Lee. 1977. Environmental Statement Chugach Moose-Fire Management Program. 
94 pp. 

Davidson, D.F. 1996. Ecological hierarchy of the Chugach National Forest. Unpublished 
report on file Chugach National Forest, Anchorage, AK 7 pp. 

Davis, James L. & Albert W. Franzmann. 1979. Fire-Moose-Caribou Interrelationships: A 
Review and Assessment. In - Proceedings of N. American Moose Conference v.l5 

pp 80-118. 

Dickman & Cook. 1988. Fire and fungus in a mountain hemlock forest. Can. J. Bot. vol. 67. 
2005-2016 pp. 

Filip, Gregory M. & Lisa Yang-Erve. 1997. Effects of Prescribed Burning on the Viability of 
Armillaria ostoyae in Mixed-Conifer Forest Soils in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. 
Northwest Science, vol. 71, No. 2 137-144 pp. 

Ferguson, Susan. 1997. Personal communication Atmospheric Scientist Pacific Northwest 
Research Station - Forestry Sciences Laboratory, Seattle, Washington. 


59 



Howell, Susan, 1997. Personal communication Wildlife Biologist - Seward Ranger District. 

Klein, David R. 1982. Fire, Lichens, and Caribou. J Range Management 35(3) pp 390-395. 

National Weather Service Center. 1997. Personal communication Jason Hess - Service 
Hydrologist, Anchorage Forecast Office. 

Oja, Warren, 1997. Personal communication Silviculturist - Supervisor Office Chugach 
National Forest, Anchorage, AK. 

Quinlan, Sue and William Lehnhausen. 1978. Fire Related Wildlife Studies on the Kenai 
Peninsula portion of the Chugach National Forest. 87 pp. 

Rounsaville, Marc. 1992. Fuel Analysis Seward Ranger District Chugach National Forest. 

13 pp. 

See, J. 1990. Cooper Landing Spruce Beetle Fire Behavior Analysis. Alaska Department of 
Natural Resources, Division of Forestry. 

1997. Spruce Beetle Activity & Potential Wildland Fire Hazards in Southcentral Alaska. 

Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry. 

Spencer, D.L. and Hakala, J.B. 1964. Moose and fire on the Kenai. Proceedings, 3rd Tall 
Timbers Fire Ecology Conference, Tallahassee, Florida. 3:11-33. 

United States Dept, of Agriculture - Forest Service. 1986. Cooper Landing Cooperative Project 
Environmental Assessment. R-10- 

United States Dept, of Agriculture - Eorest Service. 1990. Cooper Landing Cooperative Project 
Environmental Assessment. R-10- 

United States Dept, of Agriculture - Eorest Service. 1995. Moose Pass Cooperative Project 
Environmental Assessment. RlO-MB-281 

United States Dept, of Agriculture - Eorest Service. 1997. Eorest Supervisor - Larry Hudson 

memo: Eorest Health (Moose Pass Cooperative Project) reply to Prescribed Eire, Seward 
Ranger District. 

United States Dept, of Agriculture - Eorest Service. 1997. Eorest Supervisor - Larry Hudson 

memo: Timber Consideration in the Chugach Eorest Plan Revision reply to Planning Team. 

United States Dept, of Agriculture - Eorest Service. 1997. Prescribed Eire Guidelines Chugach 
National Eorest. 41 pp. 


60 



United States Dept, of Agriculture - Forest Service. 1997. Prescribed Burning R-10. Regional 
Office Summary of Prescribed Fire Activity on Tongass and Chugach National Forests 
1994. 

Vanderlinden, Larry A. 1991. Alaska Interagency Type 1 Incident Management Team - Pothole 
Lake Fire Contingency Plan. 27 pp. 

Weixelman, D.A. 1987. Prescribed burning for moose habitat improvement on the Chugach 
National Forest, Alaska. USDA Forest Service RlO-MB-38. 27 pp. 


61 



HIDDEN LAKE 


Appendix B 


WISM31UV 

V 

SVlOVUSdAO 

IWiNiMVUO 

3V33V3IU3 

xnvs 

sninaod 


SHNTt/ 


rinias 

¥NviSN3xu3m vonsi 


V30ld 

(Ml HAdia 

rd*Q SUViA) 
SBAVa 

Noeuvooiavu 

V 

83NOZ N31lOd 



62 


% of poDon •um 
• = 2% or loBs of poMofi Mim 

Rgxtrt 9'4. Pollen diagram (summary) from Hidden Lake, cenffal Kenai 
Peninsula. (From Ager and Sims. 19Rlb. and unpublished data.) 


yr O.P. I 1000 


Appendix C 


392 PA TRIOA M. ANDERSON AND UND^ B. BRUBAKER 



12 - 

13 - 

14 - 



Hidden Loke 
KCNAl PENINSULA 

Fi^ 15S Summary of vegciallon history of southern Alaska. 


63 


Appendix D 


< 



< 

O 

3 

o 

K 



iunuB€t<d$ 




4 VM 
uimtAvid *1 
uinunouuv uinfpetfoaAi 





% 


•mot|podX|Od — J 

MioiHin^nj, ^ •• • 

iu»tJ«|tA — ♦ 

ujAfyouMiOd » « 

W|« 9 H 3 - ' ■ ' ' 

uinfumj*o — 

• 9 ie*jnft 4 ifs ** 

•fUOUIMUItIp *11 ^ 

•nqnu • 




•• 


Ulfl|•^»fB 4 -| — 

MMSMdAO — 
•nuiuisiQ -> 




dV 




>iin 



■uf tfyiu iftnfi . 

‘4 — 



J 




So 







2 S 




•o 

o 

o 


•o 

Im 

o 

T 3 

C 

c« 


C 

o 

W 

X 


C/D 


rs 

a. 

V 

C /3 

o 

o 


E 

o 


CO 

C 

_o 

'S 

u 

V 

CO 

u 

vO 

c 

o 

' w 

n 

c 

o 

N 

13 

C 

n 


o. 

n 


bo 


c 

_u 

■q 

o. 

-o 

c 

n 


n 

u 

a. 


d . 

iZ 


64 


Appendix E 


310 


C Bamosky and Others 


& 


SCREAUIMC 

VELLOWLEGS 

POND 



WEST \- 


BIRCH LK. 

EIGNTMILE LK 

SorucW, 
-.'rf AW#»..‘‘- 


Birettf AldAf 

Spnie* -^ 


Bkcft 

BkcA 



Xtfte 


Xertc 


CROWSNEST LK 


e 

& 



SANDS OF 
time IR. 


Spruet/ 

— 

-Sprvctr 


HIDDEN LR. 
Senic« 


Bircrv 

AtOtf 



- 2D00 

. 0 


UNGA ISLAND 


I 

s 

< 


0 

10 


eircrw 

Htain 

M«liC 



HIDDEN IK. 



MUNOAY 

CREEK 

AK}«f 


MUSKEG 

ClAOUE 

^ AMirti 
*S.tpruc« 

LpInW AldAr 

0 


UPPER 

MONTANA 

CREEK 

AWpr^ « 
LpInM Aldpf 


C 



EXPLANATION 

M»ft> 

luftOr* 


CiOMP 

forest 


□ 


Open lotesi o< 
osniiind 


□ 


ShruD 

lunort 


□ 


Figure 11. Vegeiiiional changes through lime inferred from three transects of pollen sites in Alaska. 
(A'jbreviations: L pine • lodgepole pine: S. spruce * Sitka spruce; W, hem. = western hemlock). 


65 


Appendix F 


SOUTHEASTERN ALASKA VEGETATION HISTORY 


1 



Fig. 9. Apparent Holocene conifer migration txxthwestward '^ved on first arrival between Lituya 
Bay and Prince William Sound. 


66 


Appendix G 


(no appendix G in hardcopy) 


67 



Radiocarbon age CBP> 


Appendix H 


CALIBRATION OF RADIOCARBON AGE TO CALENDAR YEARS 


{ Variables:C 1 3/C 1 2=-25.9;lab mult.=l ) 
Laboratory Number: Beta-91346 

Conventional radiocarbon age: 


Calibrated results: 
(2 sigma, 95% probability) 


1270 +/- 40 BP 
cal AD 670 to 875 


Intercept data: 

Intercept of radiocarbon age 
with calibration curve: cal AD 770 


1 sigma calibrated results: cal AD 690 to 790 

(68% probability) 


1 


1270 ♦/- 40 BP 



c<l AO 


References: 

Pretoria Calibration Carve for Short Uved Samples 

Pogel, J. C, Fuls. A . Visser. £ and Becker, B., 1993, Radiocarbon 35(1), p73’86 
A Simplified Approach to Calibrating Cl 4 Dates 

Talma. A. S. and yogel, J. C.. 1993. Radiocarbon 35(3), p3 17-322 
Calibration • 1993 

Stuiver. M.. Long. A.. Kra. R S. and Devine. J. M.. 1993. Radiocarbon 35(1) 


68 


Radiocarbon aqa <BP> 


Appendix I 


CALIBRATION OF RADIOCARBON AGE TO CALENDAR YEARS 


( Variables:C 1 3/C 1 2=-25.7:lab mult =1 ) 


Laboratory Number: 

Conventional radiocarbon age: 

Calibrated results: 

(2 sigma, 95% probability) 


Beta-91344 
1540 4-/- 40 BP 
cal AD 430 to 620 


Intercept data: 

Intercept of radiocarbon age 
with calibration curve: cal AD 550 


1 sigma calibrated results: 
(68% probability) 


cal AD 465 to 475 and 
cal AD 5 1 5 to 590 


t- 1540 40 BP 



cal iW 


References: 

Pretoria Calibration Curve for Short Lived Samples 

Vogel, J. C, Futs, A.. Visser. E. and Becker. B.. 1993, Radiocarbon 35(1). p73-86 
A Simplified Approach to Calibrating C14 Dates 

Talma. A. S. and Vogel, J C.. 1993, Radiocarbon 35(2i. p3t7’322 
Calibration - 1993 

Stutver. M.. Long. A., Kra. R S. and Devine. J. M., 1 993. Radiocarbon 35(1) 


69 


Radiocarbon aga (BP) 


Appendix J 


CALIBRATION OF RADIOCARBON AGE TO CALENDAR YEARS 




( VariablesiC 1 3/C 12=-25.3:lab mult .= 1 ) 

Laboratory Number: Beta-91342 

Conventional radiocarbon age: 3010 +/- 40 BP 

Calibrated results: cal BC 1385 to 112G 

(2 sigma, 95% probability) 


Intercept data: 

Intercept of radiocarbon age 
with calibration curve: cal BC 1260 


1 sigma calibrated results: cal BC 1295 to 1170 

(68% probability) 


1 


3010 ♦/- W BP 



cal BC 


References: 

Pretoria Calibration Curve for Short IJved Sandies 

Vogel, J. C.. Fuls, A.. Visser. £. and Becker, B , 1993, Radiocarbon 35(1), p73'S6 
A Simplified Approach to Calibrating Cl 4 Dates 

Talma. A. S. and Vogel. J. C„ 1993, Radiocarbon 35(2), p3I~-322 
Calibration - 1993 

5’/M/ver. Af . Long. A.. Kra. R S and Devine. J M . 1993. Radiocarbon 35(1) 


70 


Radiocarbon a9a CBP> 


Appendix K 


CALIBRATION OF RADIOCARBON AGE TO CALENDAR YEARS 


(VariablesiC 1 3/Cl 2— 27. 1 :lab mult.= 1 ) 

Laboratory Number: Beta-91343 

Conventional radiocarbon age: 2430 +/- 50 BP 

Calibrated results: cal BC 775 to 390 

(2 sigma, 95% probability) 


Intercept data: 

Intercepts of radiocarbon age 


with calibration curve: 

cal 

BC 

485 

and 


cal 

BC 

465 

and 


cal 

BC 

425 


1 sigma calibrated results: 

cal 

BC 

755 

to 685 and 

(68% probability) 

cal 

BC 

540 

to 405 



References: 

Pretoria Calibration Curve for Short Uved Samples 

Vogel. J. C.. Fub. A.. Visser, E. and Becker. B.. 1993, Radiocarbon 35(1). p73-86 
A Simplified Approach to Calibrating Cl 4 Dates 

Talma, A. S. and Vogel, J. C.. 1993. Radiocarbon 35(2), p3 17-322 
Calibration - 1993 

Siuiver, M.. Long. A . Kra. R. S. and Devine, J. M . 1993, Radiocarbon 35(1) 


71 


Padiocarboo aga (BP> 


Appendix L 


CALIBRATION OF RADIOCARBON AGE TO CALENDAR YEARS 


(Variables:estimated C13/C12=-25:lab mult.=l) 


Laboratory Number: 

Conventional radiocarbon age*: 

Calibrated results: 

(2 sigma, 95% probability) 

* * C 1 3/C 1 2 ratio estimated 


Beta-91345 

570 +/- 60 BP 

cal AD 1295 to 1445 


Intercept data: 

Intercept of radiocarbon age 
with calibration curve: cal AD 1405 


1 sigma calibrated results: 
(68% probability) 


cal AD 1310 to 1355 and 
cal AD 1385 to 1425 



1300 1400 lEOO 

cal Ml 


References: 

Pretoria Calibration Curve for Short Lived Samples 

Vogel, J. C. Fuls. A.. Visser, E. and Becker. B., 1993. Radiocarbon 33(1). p73-S6 
A Simplified Approach to Calibrating Cl 4 Dates 

Talma. A. S. and Vogel, J.C . 1 993. Radiocarbon 33(2). p3 1 7-322 
Calibration - 1993 

Stutver. M.. Long. A.. Kra. R S. and Devine. J. M.. 1993, Radiocarbon 33(1) 


72 


Vegetation and Fire, Moose Pass, AK 


Appendix M 




73 


Vegetation and Fire, Cooper Landing, AK 


Appendix M (cont.) 



74 


Appendix N 


crimate diagnostics center 


Comparison of Different El Ninos 

Animations of Past El Nino Events 

(Using weekly Sea Surface Temperature data) 

1: 1982-83 SST (JAN82 - JUL83) 

2: 1991-92 SST (JAN91 - JUL92) 

3: 1994-95 SST (JAN94 - JUL95) 

4: 1997-98 SST (JAN97 - Present) 

Comparison of 4 El Nino events (JAN - Present) 


E NSO Index : Comparison of the current 1997 event with other events 


1 


a. 

4 > 

Q 


•o 

!3 


V) 


Multivariate ENSO Index for the 6 
strongest historic El Nido events vs. the current event 



• KU«s Voktr ahl MwLmI Tuhlut 

H0AA*CIRE8 Clim«t< Uaxvtrsity of Colonio *1 Bo«U*r 


CE)C ENSO PAGES: Effects on Climate Current Conditions References Education Forecasts 

NOAA-CIRES Climate Diagnostics Center 

Document maintained by Cathy Smith (cas @cdc .no aa .gov) 

Last updated: Nov 5, 1997 

http://www.cdc.noaa.gov/ENSO/eiiso.different.litml 


75